ClimateDialogue: Exploring different views on climate change

The project leader is Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), a senior scientist and climate advisor in the Climate Services section and is often active at the interface between science and society. The second member is Bart Strengers. He is a climate policy analyst and modeler in the IMAGE-project at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and has been involved in the discussion with climate skeptics for many years. The third member is Marcel Crok, an investigative science writer, who published a critical book (in Dutch) about the climate debate.

We welcome comments here and are happy to answer any questions regarding this project. You can also send an email to info [at] climatedialogue [dot] org.

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282 comments on this post.
  1. Alastair McDonald:

    Hi Bart,

    You wrote “Everything we tried so far has failed. So to those saying this is dangerous, bad, or what not, my question would be: What do you suggest we do instead to regain the public’s trust in science and stop the cold-war type state that is clearly detrimental to science’s credibility?”

    The first thing to do is recognise it is not a cold war. It is a hot war being fought by a few sceptical scientists, but supported by a large disinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industries (FFIs). The FFIs’ objective is not to disprove the science. It is just to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of the general public and politicians on science. So long as there is doubt, no action will be taken, and FFI can go on making their vast profits, and pay their top executives vast salaries. So vast that no matter how disastrous the results of AGW are, the executives expect that it will not affect them.

    The sophisticated hacking of the UEA’s e-mails was a brilliant victory for the FFIs in this war. It has destroyed the trust of the public in the science just as it was planned to do. The answer is to tell it like it is. The public must be told that the sceptic campaign is being driven by greedy executives and not by honest scientists. This is why the ClimateDialog is wrong. It is giving the sceptic scientists credence and ignoring the real enemy. It is yet another victory for the FFIs.

    What needs to be done is to give the public the bad news. At the current levels of CO2 both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets will melt and raise sea level by 10 m or more. The more CO2 we add to the atmosphere the faster they will melt. We have under-estimated how long it will take for the Arctic sea ice to melt so there is no guarantee that estimates of thundreds of years for the ice sheets are correct. In fact when the Arctic sea ice disappears then the Greenland ice sheet melt will speed up. Moreover, there are positive feedbacks in the ice sheet melt. As the ice melts its height is reduced. The surface is then at a lower and warmer altitude and so melts faster. This positive feedback could lead to a sudden collapse of the ice sheet. The sudden rise in sea level will lift and break off the Antarctic ice shelves, and they will float off allowing the ice sheets behind them to follow them into the ocean. This could happen by the end of this century if not sooner.

    ClimateDialog has been set up to bring the sceptics and mainstream together, but now the science should be a debate between the alarmists and the mainstream. People like Jim Hansen, Kevin Anderson, and Jeremy Grantham are telling the truth. By centring the debate between the sceptics and mainstream you are conceding to the FFIs. The science is now pointing to an alarmist position. Even a debate between the mainstream and the alarmists would be only be hope versus truth.

    But you ask for suggestions and mine is that you add alarmists to the debate and sideline the sceptics. That is where the real debate should be.

  2. pete best:

    Re #200 – yes and PWC also produced a report of the same magnitude and so have the IEA in recent and this year to. The world bank has also invested $5 billion in coal fired infrastructure and other banks even more.

    As I say, target the banks who fund the fossil fuels and maybe something can be done

  3. Kevin McKinney:

    “The larger context is that we are operating in a democratic system, and we have a minority that is being outvoted by a majority.”

    A false formulation, IMO. The majority in most countries accepts that AGW is real, and a problem, according to polling data. Often enough, it’s actually a supermajority that believes this. Of course, the majority of that majority also fails to appreciate the seriousness of this problem, which means that it drives their voting behavior relatively weakly; yet it does affect their political calculus.

    (I see Canada as an example: I strongly suspect that the Harper government would love to ‘come out’ as a pro-fossil fuel, ‘drill, baby, drill’ body. Yet the Canadian public consistently polls out as strongly believing in the mainstream scientific position, which leaves the government with the necessity of maintaining a hypocritical fig leaf of concern about climate change. This has the fortunate effect of constraining their policy options somewhat.)

  4. Superman1:

    Kevin McKinney #203,

    ““The larger context is that we are operating in a democratic system, and we have a minority that is being outvoted by a majority.”
    A false formulation, IMO. The majority in most countries accepts that AGW is real, and a problem, according to polling data. Often enough, it’s actually a supermajority that believes this. Of course, the majority of that majority also fails to appreciate the seriousness of this problem, which means that it drives their voting behavior relatively weakly; yet it does affect their political calculus.”

    Actually, a very accurate formulation. Let’s start with a foundational assumption. To dodge the major impending climate catastrophe that we project today, harsh restrictions on energy use by all global citizens will be required, and extremely harsh restrictions on fossil fuel energy use in the very near future will be required. Now, I can believe that a majority of people in most countries, including the USA, would respond to a poll stating that AGW is real and is a problem. But, what actions would they be willing to take to back up the poll responses? Would they e.g. be willing to accept the ‘planned austerity’ that Kevin Anderson says is required to stay within the 2 C limit or even the 4 C limit? The citizens of Greece, Spain, etc, do not appear to be looking very kindly on the mild austerity being proposed for non-climate change reasons, and the recent USA Presidential candidates stressed growth in the economy and jobs in parallel with an expansion of Energy Independence (read Fossil Fuel expansion). I see no evidence that anything more than a miniscule minority in the USA would be willing to take the measures required to ward off the catastrophic climate change, if given the choice through the democratic process.

    The politicians, especially those from the fossil energy producing states, recognize this, and stay as far away from the topic as possible in order to remain in office. Do you believe Sen Inhofe (OK) or Rep Barton (TX) don’t understand the implications of expanding fossil fuel use? They have access to some of the finest educational institutions and minds in the country, and I have no doubt they utilize these contacts. But, how long would they survive in a state like Texas or Oklahoma or Louisiana if they proposed harsh measures that would restrict energy use of their constituents as well as put their constituent fossil fuel workers out of a job?

    So, the real challenge for Bart et al is how can they convey the seriousness of what is required to the politicians and residents of these states, and do it in a way that offers some ‘carrots’, other than an appeal to the morals of saving the future of our progeny.

  5. Mrlee:

    IMHO CD has the potential to fill an important role. As I see the situation of the debate/war, there are two sides shouting at each other from their respective blogs and sympathetic media. I think bringing them together is necessary for people to compare them and make up their mind on who has the better argument. Then of course it is vitally important, as many have commented, that the moderator/discussion leader diligently forces the participants to always and without fail to back up every assertion with facts or peer reviewed science, as the two scientists did in your first go. I do however agree with those saying your first attempt wasa failure. You should have been much more aggressive in reining in Curry. I’d like to see the denialist retorics exposed for everyone to see on a site that takes the science seriously, much like Dan H’s subtle manipulations are exposed every time on RC. Help lay people like me see them for what they are. Good luck.

  6. SecularAnimist:

    Superman1 wrote: “To dodge the major impending climate catastrophe that we project today, harsh restrictions on energy use by all global citizens will be required”

    That is just plain false.

    Photovoltaic panels installed on all the flat commercial rooftops in the USA would generate more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the country. Concentrating solar thermal power plants on just five percent of the USA’s deserts would generate more electricity than the entire country uses. The same is true of the wind energy resources of just four midwestern states.

    And those examples represent just a small fraction of the USA’s vast solar and wind energy resources. According to a study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders.”

    The fact is that we have abundant, endless sources of energy, and we have the mature and powerful technologies needed to harvest those sources, and those technologies are getting more powerful and less expensive every day.

    Moreover, because we waste so much energy, we have an enormous opportunity to get more utility out of the energy we consume simply by implementing the most obvious and lowest-cost efficiency measures.

    I don’t know why you insist on pretending otherwise. Frankly, your comments often read like coal industry propaganda of the sort designed to discourage people from supporting action to reduce emissions by scaring them with “if we stop burning coal we’ll all have to shiver in the dark and live in caves” alarmism.

  7. Hank Roberts:

    Bart, it’s a public health problem.
    The track record, such as it is, would be to look at how society coped with the downside of damage from highly profitable industries:

    — chlorofluorocarbons
    — tributyl tin paint
    — radiation (radium “tonic”; shoestore x-ray machines)
    — antibiotics used in agriculture
    — tobacco
    — asbestos
    — lead paint
    — air pollution
    — snake oil
    — water pollution

    and there are many other examples.

    Anyone studying public health is familiar with these.

    Make the point that this is a broad, general, familiar pattern.
    Make the point that the PR delay vendors serve them all similarly.

  8. Hank Roberts:

    I wonder what difference this might make:

    “… both houses of Congress passed whistleblower legislation that will protect federal employees who expose the censorship and misuse of government science.”

    The bill< (pdf) now goes to President Obama's desk. He's expected to sign it.

  9. Ray Ladbury:

    Superman1: “Do you believe Sen Inhofe (OK) or Rep Barton (TX) don’t understand the implications of expanding fossil fuel use? They have access to some of the finest educational institutions and minds in the country, and I have no doubt they utilize these contacts.”

    You haven’t been to Texas or Oklahoma, have you? Let me tell you a story:

    When the President of the University of Oklahoma was asking the legislature for more money, he said he was asking because he wanted a University the football team could be proud of. Frankly, the Texas petition to secede is the best news I’ve had since the election.

  10. Ray Ladbury:

    Mrlee, I must have missed the place where you tell us what you had in mind for reining in Aunt Judy. A border collie perhaps?

    Aunt Judy is not interested in a coherent argument or understanding. In fact, such an understanding is anathema to her desire to portray herself as the font of Socratic wisdom in the sense that she knows that she knows nothing. I am willing to take her at her word, but I am not willing to let her speak for the entire climate science community in claiming–indeed worshipping–ignorance. Judy has gotten pretty good at the Gish gallop–and it is hard to defend against that maneuver in a forum like the one given.

    Calvinball and science don’t belong in the same arena.

  11. Superman1:

    Ray Ladbury #209,

    “You haven’t been to Texas or Oklahoma, have you?…. Frankly, the Texas petition to secede is the best news I’ve had since the election.”

    I’ve been to both and have done business with organizations in both, Texas far more than Oklahoma. I also would have no problem with Texas seceding, sooner rather than later. That does not alter the reality that e.g. University of Texas, especially the Austin campus, is one of the best educational institutions in this country. I know some very competent people who went there. Ironically, it was because of oil and gas money given to the university that they were able to attract people of such caliber by offering them extremely attractive salaries.

    I really think it’s a mistake to underestimate your opponents; that is the surest road to disaster. Forgetting about what the politicians say in public, they understand the realities of moving away from fossil fuel quite well. In those two states in particular, moving away from fossil would mean 1) far more expensive alternatives; 2) a collapse of the fossil fuel organizations and the economy with it; 3) a Super-Depression among the work force; 4) a much reduced standard of living.

  12. Mrlee:

    @Ray She’s indeed fond of the Gish gallop and presenting numerous arguments and assertions are once. I propose using black marker on her new arguments until previously contested points are resolved. That her arguments could still be read by marking the text with your mode(no real censorship) while making it quite obvious that she hasn’t addressed the contended points. You yourself is a master crusher of poor denialist arguments, and it has been very valuable for me as a longtime lurked on this blog.

  13. Nick Palmer:

    Some commenters have come close to the nub of the problem such as Bart Verheggen #177 Superman1 #197

    Giving a forum to out and out denialists/demagogues – extreme examples would be Monckton or Marc Morano types – would be bad. People like this are so skilled in Gish Gallop denialist arguments that they would mostly wipe the floor with legitimate climate scientists IN THE MINDS OF THE VOTING PUBLIC. The fact that the arguments they use, and even the scientific papers they reference, rarely (to anyone very knowledgeable in the field) properly support their arguments is almost irrelevant. To the public, who have no real way of judging the relative credibility of the opponents, the “sceptic/denialist” position can look very convincing indeed. It is the mass of the public who needI believe a better way to deal with the many and varied misleading denialist memes is a media blitz of articles and adverts, TV, newspaper and radio based, using the simple tactic of listing a deceptive argument and then giving short answers, using simple day to day analogies familiar to the public, to illustrate the nature of the deceptive “magic trick”. does a good job, but their main method tends to use a clear exposition of what the science actually says rather than actually precisely nailing the mechanics of the magic trick. Just stating “the science says” is no longer a particulary effective technique in the public arena because it is no longer as successful at countering the uncertainties and the doubts that people now have. Propaganda usually appears more real to the mass audience than the truth…

    When all is said and done, the fate of the world and the validity of the predictions of mainstream science comes down to one figure – the climate sensitivity. If the IPCC figure of 3° C per doubling is correct, we’re definitely in for a world of trouble. If the figure is a lot lower, such as 1° C or less per doubling, then the predictions of the IPCC will be a invalid and there won’t be much of a problem,as the “lukewarmers” say.

    This is where the battleground for the confidence of the public lies. This is where the debate should be. Purely between mainstream science and the “lukewarmers”. Bart Verheggen’s ClimateDialogue should focus on this critical area of dissent. Necessarily, there will only be a very few dissenting scientists – Lindzen, Spencer, Christy… I’m starting to struggle to find more – to make that case. As a means of influencing the public perception of the realities and the risks such a forum would not be of too much use if the aim was to convince the public by definitively routing the lukewarmers, because the complexities of the scientific arguments would go backwards and forwards too much for the public to make a firm judgement but, even if the public does not understand all the science, they can very easily appreciate the risks they will inflict on their families and descendants if they choose to back the “side” that proves to be talking out of its hat. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Planet B which could have been used to do a control experiment so that the actual climate sensitivity could have been empirically measured so understanding the risks of action, inaction or something in between is probably the optimum way to get the majority of the public onside in time.

    Whilst the arguments and conflicts over the precise sensitivity figure are too complex for the general public to comprehend, just about all the public is easily capable of assessing the risks (if they are explained properly) to themselves and their families of backing the wrong side.

  14. SecularAnimist:

    Superman1 wrote: ” In those two states in particular, moving away from fossil would mean …”

    It would mean a lot more of this:

    According to Renewable Energy World, “Once known for oil and gas production, Oklahoma has quickly established itself as a major player in the wind power generation industry. Today the state is taking advantage of its abundant natural resources with rapid development of wind …”

    According to the American Wind Energy Association ((PDF), Oklahoma has the 8th most installed wind capacity in the nation, and in 2011 was 5th in the nation in new wind power installations and got 7.1 percent of its electricity from wind. Oklahoma currently has 2,400 MW of wind power online; added 393 MW of new wind power in the first three quarters of 2012; and has 734 MW under construction with 14,677 MW of new wind power projects in the queue.

    And again, according to the AWEA (PDF), Texas has by far the most installed wind generation capacity of any state (10,929 Megawatts); installed 535 MW of new capacity in the first three quarters of 2012 (nearly double the new capacity installed in 2011); has 1,291 MW under construction; and over 22,000 MW of new wind power projects in the queue.

  15. SecularAnimist:

    Nick Palmer wrote: “If the figure is a lot lower, such as 1° C or less per doubling, then the predictions of the IPCC will be a invalid and there won’t be much of a problem …”


    We already have nearly 1° C warming from the CO2 we have already emitted, and even that warming is self-evidently already very much of a problem.

  16. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Nick Palmer — 22 Nov 2012 @ 1:43 PM

    You say- “Giving a forum to out and out denialists/demagogues – extreme examples would be Monckton or Marc Morano types – would be bad.“

    For an excellent example of how to deal with Monckton and his ilk see Potholer54 in his Climate Change section. There are at least 8 entries including one that is a summary.


  17. Ray Ladbury:

    There is a saying in the military that the Generals always plan to fight the last war. The result is usually disaster until some of the generals come to understand the new war.

    Our situation is complicated by the fact that we haven’t fought a war like this before. However, we need to understand who our enemy is. The vast majority of deniers are ignorant food tubes–they cannot even write a simple English sentence properly. Even Inhofe and Barton are tools. The real enemies are folks like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove and the likes of the Koch bros. Even they don’t understand the science, because they don’t understand statistical reasoning(remember Rove’s election night meltdown), and climate change is inherently statistical.

    Ultimately, though, the problem is that we cannot tell Joe Sixpack and Jane Winebox what is needed to solve the problem. Until we can, they will be seduced by the lies of the denialati.

  18. Ray Ladbury:

    Nick Palmer, The 90% confidence interval for climate sensitivity is 2 to 4.5 degrees per doubling of CO2. Those banking on 1 degree per doubling are betting the farm on a 100 to 1 longshot. It’s like playing russian roul-ette with an AK47.

  19. Edward Greisch:

    Prelude to my next comment: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn

    A voodoo doll is a social construct. It doesn’t do anything. A crucifix is a social construct. It doesn’t do anything either. A cell phone actually does useful work. A cell phone is a machine, not a social construct. Cell phones actually work. A cell phone uses quantum mechanics and quantum mechanics works regardless of the fact that most people have never heard of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is not a social construct.
    Thomas S. Kuhn’s book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” is nonsense. Innumerate humanitologists have used the social construct idea to claim that it is just as good to believe any crazy nonsense they want to instead of reality. The innumerate humanitologists who use Thomas S. Kuhn’s book to denigrate science are wrong. The humanities and sociology were tarnished by Thomas S. Kuhn’s book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

    Kuhn thought that Aristotle’s “Physics” wasn’t wrong, just different than Newton’s. Kuhn was wrong about that. Newton’s physics can be verified by doing experiments. Aristotle’s “Physics” can be proven wrong by doing experiments. Aristotle’s “Physics” wasn’t physics because it wasn’t science. Aristotle died almost 2000 years before science was invented. Aristotle’s “Physics” never resulted in anything in 2000 years. Newton’s physics resulted in the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution started within a century of Newton’s death. Aristotle’s concepts were not “bad Newton”, they were just nonsense.
    Paul Karl Feyerabend’s ideas are also nonsense. No myth ever resulted in a machine that actually worked. Science does not generate myths. Science generates truth. Engineering uses theories and data from science to invent machines that are useful because they work. and other places
    Newton experimented and measured with maniacal intensity. Newton also computed and invented math with maniacal intensity. Aristotle only did philosophy, playing with words, ink and paper. By copying Newton’s habits, scientists today continue to discover truth. Engineers use the theories, information and mathematics generated by scientists and mathematicians to create useful machines that actually work. Nobody ever made a useful machine by following Aristotle or Aristotle’s habits.

    The ancient Greek who came closest to duplicating Newton was Archimedes of Syracuse.

  20. Edward Greisch:

    WUWT was voted the top science site by the general public. That should tell you a lot. “Why We Disagree About Climate Change” by Mike Hulme talks a lot about things that people believe, such as religions. Even fine divisions inside of one religion make it impossible for any agreement to be reached on climate inside of one religion, per Hulme. Hulme doesn’t understand science either, and that is also the point. When major “intellectuals” and book writers don’t get it, why in the world would you even try to teach the general public? “Mike Hulme is a professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA).” So how can I say Hulme doesn’t understand science? How can Hulme be so easy on “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn?

    Inside the group of climate activists, 206 SecularAnimist doesn’t get that intermittent sources of energy need energy storage that we don’t have the technology for.

    What is wrong is that the human brain doesn’t have a math co-processor. Nor are we born with a mania to do experiments or make measurements.
    “The Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen considers it “fairly certain” that Newton had Asperger syndrome.”

    Asperger syndrome and even autism has its uses, but “Although it was claimed that he was once engaged, Newton never married.” Isaac Newton’s genotype isn’t going to take over the gene pool. Even a major driver of evolution like rapid climate change is not going to make a race of scientists out of us.

    So here is the deal: CD Climate Dialog would be a bad idea. Many people aren’t going to get it even though Nature is going to continue killing people in greater and greater numbers. We can only hope that enough people can be persuaded [by Obama, not RC] to take enough action to avoid the extinction of the human race of apes. But you still have to keep doing RC.

  21. sidd:

    Mr. Greisch writes, on the 22nd of November, 2012 at 11:44 PM:

    “A crucifix is a social construct. It doesn’t do anything either. A cell phone actually does useful work. A cell phone is a machine, not a social construct.”

    These are quite narrow definitions of “do” and “work.” I submit a slightly broader reading.

    A crucifix is a symbol of great power, not perhaps in the physical realm, but certainly in the psychological and social realm. Together with other liturgical symbols and rituals, it unifies the Christian Churches and the Christian laity. It does a great deal indeed, what if climate change activists had such a powerful totem ? Sometimes I speculate on what such a symbol might be…

    A cell phone certainly has symbolic and social aspects as well, but I will leave those to others.


  22. Non-Scientist:

    Thanks for all of your responses.
    153 the link was very helpful 158 159 Kevin – link was helpful 160 Ray – comment gives me some perspective.

    You’ve answered most of my questions. I have a few more which I’ll attempt to post in an appropriate thread.

  23. Jim Larsen:

    220 Edward G said, “WUWT was voted the top science site by the general public.”

    “CD Climate Dialog would be a bad idea.”

    “you still have to keep doing RC.”

    I disagree. RC is designed to teach the willing, and does so exceedingly well, but it is a poor fit as a counter to the more mass-market WUWT. The audience you seek simply won’t be found on RC, except via drive-by trollishness.

    CD’s inclusive format has a shot at attracting WUWTians. The alternative to sharing the table is to give the table over entirely.

  24. Fred Magyar:

    Edward Greisch@200 wrote:

    “Mike Hulme is a professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA).” So how can I say Hulme doesn’t understand science? How can Hulme be so easy on “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn?

    I don’t know Mike Hulme but I’m going to guess that he understands science pretty well and possibly knows a thing or two about human social interactions, and paradigm change as well.

    Donella Meadows, who held a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard mentions Thomas Kuhn in her paper titled ‘Leverage Points; Places to Intervene in a System”. I have a hunch she too understood science, complex systems, and the social interactions of Great Apes. Here’s the reference:

    “You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system, and therefore this item should be lowest on the list, not second. But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow in the process of paradigm change. In a single individual, it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a falling of scales from the eyes, a new way of seeing. Whole societies are another matter—they resist challenges to their paradigms harder than they resist anything else.

    So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that.5 You keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm. You keep speaking and acting, loudly and with assurance, from the new one. You insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather, you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.”

    BTW, as the father of a teenager with Aspergers and a math co-processor that came built into his brain, I’m pretty sure that the Isaac Newtons of the world are are not the ones who will save us this time around because they don’t have a clue about how to steer human behavior or initiate the paradigm changes that we are going to need.


  25. Hank Roberts:

    > inclusive

    “What will happen?”

    Side A: “… rising temperatures this century will cause poleward shifts in species’ thermal niches and a sharp decline in tropical phytoplankton diversity in the absence of an evolutionary response.”
    Science 23 November 2012:
    Vol. 338 no. 6110 pp. 1085-1088
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1224836

    Side Z: “Nothing, NOTHING, la-la-la-la-la, I can’t HEAR you, the iron sun is ringing, ringing like a bell ….”

  26. Mal Adapted:

    Edward Greisch:
    “Thomas S. Kuhn’s book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” is nonsense. Innumerate humanitologists have used the social construct idea to claim that it is just as good to believe any crazy nonsense they want to instead of reality.”

    A review of the Fourth (50th-anniversary) Edition of Structure (paywalled, unfortunately) offers a different opinion:

    Before Kuhn, philosophers had been focused on trying to state what the scientific method should be. But he suggested that we should pay attention to how science is done—how scientists actually work—rather than to how philosophers think it ought to work.

    We’ve all encountered D-K-afflicted “skeptics” who insist they’ve applied the scientific method to refute the expert consensus. Typically, they’ve had no scientific training beyond high school, but are confident “the scientific method” is all they need, and besides, “consensus isn’t science,” anyway. They haven’t read Kuhn.

    We’ve also encountered deniers who’ve heard of “social construction,” and think that justifies denial. They haven’t read Kuhn either [my emphasis]:

    If we accept Kuhn’s argument that science is organized around specific paradigms, and that different paradigms come with different criteria of justification, then what stops someone from claiming that, for instance, creationism (or anything else) is simply a different, incommensurable paradigm? Kuhn would never have endorsed such claims. The error that underlies them is to infer that the rejection of a single scientific method, such as falsification, entails the acceptance of anything whatsoever as being scientifically credible. That is clearly not the case. Saying that there are different ways of doing science is not the same as saying that anything at all qualifies as science.

    Something I didn’t know about the book:

    Since Structure was first published in 1962, it has sold over one million copies and has been translated into 16 languages. This book is the rarest of things, an academic bestseller.

    IMHO, that’s a good thing, and should enhance public acceptance of the AGW consensus.

  27. Russell:


    The trouble is that semiotics ramifies.

  28. Edward Greisch:

    226 Mal Adapted: How do you account for Kuhn’s claim that Aristotle’s physics is as good as Newton’s?
    “Kuhn dated the genesis of his book to 1947, when he was a graduate student at Harvard University and had been asked to teach a science class for humanities undergraduates with a focus on historical case studies. Kuhn later commented that until then, “I’d never read an old document in science.” Aristotle’s Physics was astonishingly unlike Isaac Newton’s work in its concepts of matter and motion. Kuhn concluded that Aristotle’s concepts were not “bad Newton”, just different.”

    I read “Structure” a long time ago, but not in the 1960s.

    Physics has lots of paradigms: classical mechanics, classical electrodynamics divided into more than one way to solve a problem, quantum mechanics, general relativity, etc. But the same student is taught all of them, starting with the oldest first. The difficult paradigm shifts are part of the curriculum. None of the paradigms are wrong; each has its own realm of applicability.
    Science was invented only 400 to 500 years ago. Aristotle didn’t have science.

    224 Fred Magyar: So how do you change paradigms? So how do you change religions? The questions are the same for the general public.

    BTW, So is/was Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, and so many other great scientists and engineers. Give your son an old Macintosh computer with a computer language.

  29. simon abingdon:

    Edward Greisch “Asperger syndrome and even autism has its [have their] uses”. Edward, the world of science is POWERED by Asperger “sufferers”. Get real.

  30. Alastair McDonald:


    Kuhn is not saying that “Aristotle’s physics is as good as Newton’s.” He is saying that Aristotle’s science made sense to the Aristotelian school, and they would not have understood Newton. But both have now been replaced by a new paradigm proposed by Einstein. The relativism that you are describing was invented by social scientists and rejected by Kuhn. He is quoted as protesting that he was not Kuhnian.

    The 19th Century paradigm that carbon dioxide could cause climate change, was discarded when Karl Angstrom proved that Arrhenius’ climate model was fallacious. That paradigm was restored as current thinking by Callendar and is now accepted by climate scientist as true. But both those paradigm shifts were resisted. The latter is still resisted by the sceptic scientists.

    But part of the current paradigm is that the effects of AGW will take generations to appear. We all think that it is a problem for our grandchildren. But this paradigm is faulty. The Arctic sea ice will disappear within ten years under the new paradigm, but not with the old. It is based on climate models which do not predict that. The problem is that this new paradigm is strongly resisted by earth scientists who have been educated into believing in a slow and steady changing climate as advocated by the early 19th Century Charles Lyell who established Uniformitarianism as the standard paradigm of Geology.

  31. Hank Roberts:

    Wait, Alastair — there are still uniformitarian geologists?
    Can you point one out?
    Is uniformitarianism necessary?
    S. J. Gould
    doi: 10.2475/ajs.263.3.223
    AJS Online March 1965 vol. 263 no. 3 223-228

  32. dhogaza:

    Hank …

    S. J. Gould

    Did he call it puncuated uniformitarianism? :)

  33. Radge Havers:

    Wow, that’s an ahistorical blast from the past. Correct me if I’m wrong, but forget uniformitarianism, isn’t the whole idea of “ism’s” pretty much outmoded, at least in the physical sciences?

  34. Alastair McDonald:


    [edit – no making up stuff about scientists – either cite actual statements or don’t bother]

    Thanks for that link to Gould’s first paper. I had not realised that he had been so strongly influenced by Kuhn, but I was aware of the parallelism of their thought. To my mind they are both neo-catastrophists, by which I mean believers in (non-linear) systems which do not change gradually. Kuhn argued science passes through revolutions; Gould argued for evolutionary punctuated equilibrium.

    In that first paper, Gould separates Uniformitarianism into two themes: the uniformity of scientific laws throughout time; and gradual change. As he states, the first is true and the second is false. But the truth of the first has allowed Uniformitarianism and so both to survive.

    There is a review of Gould’s last book here: Raddick, G. (2012)”The Exemplary Kuhnian: Gould’s Structure Revisited”, Historical Stusies in he Natural Sciences. 42, 2 pp 143-157 doi:10.1525/hsns.2012.42.2.143. In the conclusion Raddick writes:

    “From his very first publication in 1965 [Your reference, AMcD], calling on geologists to drop the word “uniformitarianism” as an unhelpful survival into an era when the doctrines it named had been falsified or marginalized, Gould took critical inquiry into the history of his science to be part of the job description.26 The theory of punctuated equilibrium that soon followed may never have yielded up a Kuhnian exemplar (to use Kuhn’s own preferred paraphrase for “paradigm”).”

    So, like Kuhn with his new paradigm of scientific revolutions, Gould’s new paradigm of punctuated equilibrium has not quite achieved a paradigm shift in general opinion.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  35. Radge Havers:

    Alastair, consider this as a possible indicator, when I was taking basic intro historical geology back in the 70’s, uniformitarianism was treated thusly:

    “The only assumption we make today is that physical and chemical laws are constant which is properly called actualism…we do not assume that those processes always acted with the same rates or intensities… Geologists today routinely accept sudden, violent, and even certain unique events as perfectly consistent with contemporary earth theory.”

    From our textbook “Evolution of the Earth,” which for some reason I still have sitting on a shelf.

    Needless to say, over the course of our studies we learned (i.e., had drilled into our heads and made second nature) all sorts of processes happening at different rates.

  36. Bart Strengers:

    Dear all,
    I have been carefully reading your comments and I understand your worries. I also have them, but at the same time I believe we are doing an experiment that is worth trying. Off course, it is the peer-reviewed literature where the real scientific discussion must take place, and it is the IPCC that weighs the evidence in all these studies. However, both the peer-reviewed literature and the IPCC are often perceived as ivory towers by the broader public, I think. In no way do we pretend ClimateDialogue to be a substitute whatsoever for IPCC or the scientific debate in the peer-reviewed literature, but we do think we can add something in a debate that is highly polarized. Maybe that is naïve, we’ll see.
    It is also interesting to mention that on WUWT there are many negative reactions in exactly the opposite direction. They are accusing us of not being ‘skeptic’ enough and Judith Curry not being a ‘skeptic’. They actually say we are a kind of RealClimate :-).
    With respect to Judith Curry I don’t agree she is not an expert: she has quite a long list of relevant studies on the Arctic.
    I agree we have to do a better job in moderating the discussion, especially on the point that the discussants should underpin their claims with solid arguments and peer-reviewed studies and that we should try to involve all discussants equally. We will focus on that more than we did so far.
    I understand your worries on ‘False Balance’ and ‘framing’. Indeed, we must avoid the impression of two opposing camps, as if the ‘mainstream’ were a monolith that is attacked by their critics. However, there is another pitfall to avoid, which is the impression that skeptics are somehow ignored or not being taken seriously. By incorporating the Dutch skeptics in a project like this we think it is possible to show to the outside world that we take them seriously, but only on the basis of scientific arguments. Marcel Crok (the ‘skeptic’ in the editorial staff) really wants this project to become a success, just like me. He may of course interpret the discussion differently than we do (valuing the different arguments differently), but the validity of scientific arguments should be the guiding principle. Remember that a discussion will be closed with a summary that must be approved by the full editorial staff and the discussants.

    More specific on your comments:
    # 195
    Distrust is proven by many polls, for example a recent UK survey found that only one-third of the public agrees with the statement “We can trust climate scientists to tell us the truth about climate change” (see ‘Time to raft up’ in Nature, 30 August 2012).

    -We definitely try to involve scientists on the more alarmed side of the spectrum. We asked Peter Wadham and Maslovski to participate. Peter accepted but later he declined because of time limitations.
    -You write about 10m of Sea Level Rise due to melting ice caps. Actually, SLR will be a topic in the next discussion round!

    Climate sensitivity is a vital subject we will address, but only after we have done some ‘lighter’ subjects. (First SLR, then the warming in the past 17 years).

  37. Toby Thaler:

    #236–thanks for responding to the raft of comments. Here’s my counter response:

    “With respect to Judith Curry I don’t agree she is not an expert: she has quite a long list of relevant studies on the Arctic.” The problem is not her expertise per se, but her expertise on the specific subject at issue, as well as how she applies her expertise in public. Cf. Freeman Dysan. I do not believe from reading Curry’s blogs, others’ comments on her behavior, and her contributions to CD that she has much interest in helping the “broader public” to come to a clear understanding of what is actually happening.

    “there is another pitfall to avoid, which is the impression that skeptics are somehow ignored or not being taken seriously.” Why should they be taken seriously? Their behavior as a community and mostly as individuals (including Curry according to many who post here) has been neither honest nor honorable. They consistently reject “the validity of scientific arguments;” that’s why they’re called “deniers.” If you try to limit your dialogue to genuine scientific “skeptics” as opposed to “deniers” you will find slim pickings in the competent scientific community. See # 180 and # 213.

    I believe you are falling into the trap of those who have successfully hijacked the global warming debate–the fossil fuel industry, oligarchs who wish to maintain their wealth and power, and ideological reactionaries. As I noted (# 70) the deniers intentionally conflate feared policy solutions with scientific questions.

    We need to have a robust public dialogue about those solutions, not a repetitive argument about the science. For the most part, the solutions have been advocated by scientists, resource analysts, and environmental conservationists for decades in response to other stressors. Climate change is just one relatively new facet of a series of confounding resource issues. We are wasting time arguing about the wrong questions. See Joel Pett’s now-classic cartoon at the bottom of this page.

  38. Dan H.:

    I disagree that Bart has fallen into the trap of the fossil fuel industry. His site is offering useful dialogue to those interested in climate change. The statement that both RC and WUWT have issues with the site, indicates to me that they may have hit on something. If you limit the debate to only those who think like yourself, then the whole pursuit will be worthless. Likewise, dismissing the testimony of experts with whom you disagree just shows bias, and not a genuine attempt to understand the science. I say, keep up the good work.

  39. Radge Havers:

    Fallacy indicative of nothing.

    Argument to moderation

  40. Ray Ladbury:

    Dan H., So shall we open up dialogue with the Discovery Institute on the subject of evolution…or how about a panel discussion with 2 NIH researchers and Jenny McCarthy on the merits of vaccination?

    Shall we give flat-earthers equal time at geography conferences?

    By all means, let us have scientific debate–in peer-reviewed journals, at scientific conferences, etc. And let us have it on matters where there is real rather than manufactured disagreement.

  41. Dan H.:

    You are free to invite whomever you wish to debate at your conferences. The three experts selected by climate dialogue offer three real-world opinions. Whether you agree with any, all, or none, is your choice. You can make a mockery of any debate by choosing clowns, but what value is there in that? At least they chose experts with a real, rather than a manufactured disagreement (whatever you think that is).

    Would you discontinue RC because it is not peer-reviewed?

  42. Brian Dodge:

    “The three experts selected by climate dialogue offer three real-world opinions.”

    Aha! I see the problem! ONE expert offered largely unsubstantiated opinion, and two experts offered well referenced science. (29/0 references; you do the math. Ooops, DIV BY ZERO)

  43. Toby Thaler:

    Dan H:

    I spent some time going through the dialogue at CD. Sure looks reasonable, “offering useful dialogue to those interested in climate change.” However, after spending a couple hours digging through the content and chasing down a number of links, references, etc, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that not much is being clarified. The best result appears to be that the denier (“false skeptics”) community will now find the goal posts pulled away yet again; Curry clearly states that a major portion, if not a majority, of shrinking Arctic ice is caused by AGW. This was a controversial and clarifying conclusion that required many persons spending hundreds of hours putting together a dialogue and responding to comments?

    So, I still conclude that informative as the dialogue might be to some readers, it is full of chaff and doesn’t get to the questions that really need to be addressed in self-professed public dialogue forums: Accepting that “A” is a major part of “GW”, now what? What’s the sensitivity, what are the potential or likely consequences, and what do we need to do to avoid worst case scenarios? When and where is the energy for the crucial science/policy dialogue dealing with these questions if we continue to spend time arguing over whether the “A” is 30% v. 80%?

    Moreover, I think mis-framed dialogues such as CD do affirmatively harm the public dialogue. Example [and I’ll happily retract if someone shows me the error in my work]: Judith Curry has a quote in her article: “A number of recent studies find that in models, the loss of summer sea ice cover is highly reversible.” It was not easy to find the source for this startling claim since it is not footnoted. On Curry’s web page with the same discussion I found reference to two studies: Livina, et al., A recent bifurcation in Arctic sea-ice cover and Wang and Overland, A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years? I don’t believe either study comes close to supporting her claim. How does making unsubstantiated claims like that further either the scientific or public policy dialogues?

    Nevertheless, because the statement is by Dr. Curry, and made in the course of a “credible scientific dialogue,” it has been picked up and now appears on a number of denier and other blogs. Put her entire sentence in quotes in a search engine and take a look. Scientists who cannot back up major claims like this with credible data or sources should not be allowed to participate in such forums.

    I will not waste more time on CD, and I will discontinue reading RC if it’s authors ever behave like Dr. Curry has on CD.

  44. Dan H.:

    Unlike Greenland, which is a remnant left over from the last ice age, both sea ice and mountain glacier losses are reversible. Sea ice formation (loss) is directly related to the water temperature. If the summer ice were to completely disappear, it would reappear the following summer, if conditions merit. The formation in the Arctic is more likely, due to the glacier terminii in Greenland. The old line of thinking that once the summer sea ice is gone, it is gone forever, is outdated and not widely accepted anymore.

  45. flxible:

    So Dan H makes yet more unsubstantiated claims in response to Toby Thalers complaint about unsubstantiated claims by an actual scientist!!

  46. Radge Havers:

    Huh. A politician figures out it’s past time to stop pussyfootin’ around:

    “There is a new normal of new extremes and we have to be prepared for it,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said. “And the reason we have this new normal of new extremes is because global climate change is happening and is real. And we’ve tolerated the deniers for far too long in this body.”
    Whitehouse criticized “a rear-guard action in this building led by polluters” against taking action on climate change.
    “But we have to face the fact that the deniers are wrong. They are just plain dead wrong,” he said. “And we have to deal with that, and I think some of the courtesies that we have given to one another collegially really have to yield to the fact that some of the things that are being said in the Senate, and occasionally regrettably in this committee chamber, are just plain wrong.”

    Climate Progress

  47. Hank Roberts:

    Sea ice formation (loss) is directly related to the water temperature, which is directly related to the air temperature, which is directly related to the CO2 level, which is directly related to fossil fuel burned. You know how to look it up.

    Sea ice formation (loss) is directly related to primary productivity — you know what that is.

    Do you like breathing? Do ya?


    Impact of sea-ice biology on overall primary production in a biophysical model of the pan-Arctic Ocean

    “… The importance of this so-called ‘ice-algae’ stems from their significant contribution to the total primary production (up to 50% depending on the locations, according to observations described in Gosselin et al. (1997). Simple 1D tests reveal that, depending on their initial biomass and light availability, ice algae can affect the temporal variation of surface nutrients, while they marginally impact the total primary production, or the long term position of the nutricline. The sea-ice primary production is found in the model to be as high as 40% of the total primary production depending on the location and 7.5% for the whole Arctic. The modeled primary production of the ocean is negatively correlated to the September ice cover whereas the production in the ice is more weakly positively correlated. Because of the negative correlation between sea ice cover and pelagic primary production, the short term response to the continuing ice decline will be an increased total production as seen in the model, while the ice algae production would decline…..”

  48. Dan H.:

    I was not aware that common knowledge required substantiation. However, I will post a link for you:

  49. Hank Roberts:

    Dan’s Plan for Restoring The Ice
    > …

    > we interrupt the melting process by inserting a 1xCO2 climate
    > and let the ice sheet evolve to a new steady state.

    Shorter: “Then a Miracle Occurs”

  50. SecularAnimist:

    Dan H. wrote: “I was not aware that common knowledge required substantiation. However, I will post a link for you:”

    As usual, the article that Dan H. links to as “substantiation” of his claim does not in any way substantiate his claim.

    In fact, it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with his claim that “both sea ice and mountain glacier losses are reversible”.

    Once again, I appeal to the moderators to automatically consign ALL of Dan H’s sneeringly dishonest comments to the Bore Hole. They are denialist garbage of the worst sort.